Opinion Brief

Did Obama's big deficit speech backfire?

The president's approval rating hits a near-record low, and Americans are particularly displeased with his handling of the economy. Is his much-hyped budget speech to blame?

It hasn't been a great week for President Obama. First, he got a little "churlish" with a local TV reporter from Texas. And now, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll "seems to confirm" that the president's much-anticipated budget speech last week "might not have played well" with the public, says MSNBC's First Read team. In that poll, and others, Obama's approval ratings have dropped to near-record lows, especially on the economy. That comes on the heels of last week's speech, in which Obama called for long-term deficit reduction through a combination of spending cuts and higher taxes. Perhaps the president came off as "too partisan," or too off-topic for an electorate worried about jobs, MSNBC suggests. Did his speech really backfire?

Yes, Obama badly misread the public mood: And so did the pundits, says Jonah Goldberg at National Review. But as the First Read guys rightly note, these new polls prove that Obama's "demagoguery" and "scare tactics" on Medicare didn't even have "short-term political gain." Most devastating for the president is that there was "no bounce with independents, despite fawning coverage" of his speech.
"Obama's playbook"

No, MSNBC is imagining things: Chuck Todd and his First Read team's "weasel-worded" framing of the polls "gives the game away," says Brendan Nyhan in The Huffington Post. They couch their analysis in words like "seems" and "might," because the polls don't back them up. The Post poll does show a drop in Obama's approval, but only from a month ago. And the more frequent Gallup and Rasmussen polls show no movement last week, which "flatly contradicts their thesis."
"No evidence Obama deficit speech backfired"

It's still the economy, stupid: Admit it, Obama's approval ratings are starting to "sag," says Steve Benen in Washington Monthly. And "I'm not sure what, if anything, Obama can do about it." What the polls really show is the gaping "chasm" between what Washington cares about — deficits and spending cuts — and what the rest of us see as important: Jobs, gas prices, and economic growth. And given our political gridlock, Obama's hands are pretty much tied on the economy.
"Is hope a plan? At this point, it has to be"

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